Orlando City reveal MLS plans, hope for official word in November

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These days a Major League Soccer franchise heading to Orlando seems about as likely as Eli Manning throwing an interception…

So, with Orlando City closer than ever in their quest to move up to the big leagues, only one vote from the Orange County Commission on Oct. 22 separates them from entering MLS and bringing a franchise back to Florida.

With many expecting that to be a forgone conclusion, after Orlando City Council unanimously approved plans to hand $20 million worth of tourist tax to build the stadium, Lions president Phil Rawlins sat down with the Orlando Sun Sentinel to chat about which areas the club plan to strengthen on ahead of a possible MLS bow, with plenty of interesting tidbits popping up.

He gave some pretty intriguing answers, so here are a few snippets of what he had to say.

On a likely timeline for the franchise to reach MLS after the stadium deal is in place:

Once that’s done, a successful outcome would mean we believe within 30 days, certainly by the end of November, we’d hope to have an MLS announcement in Orlando that we’ll be joining Major League Soccer. Our plan is to play in 2015, so that gives about 16 months to get prepared. And first kick for MLS would be March of 2015.

On players making the jump from USL to MLS:

We would believe that a number of those players would make the transition with us. How many? That’s down to Adrian and the performance of those players over the next 12 months, but a number of those players that we’ve got on the books today we’d expect to make the jump to Major League Soccer. They are capable of doing that, they are capable of playing at the next level. That’s the core but you’ve got to supplement that because you’re looking at a roster of 28 to 30 players.

On the club changing it’s logo but keeping the color and the name:

The name will stay the same. The logo, however, would change. Not dramatically, we’re not going to go away from Lions and go to Giraffes or something, we’ll still be the Lions, but the logo itself will change because that becomes a trademark, copyright of Major League Soccer. They take responsibility for that and take ownership of it. We’ll take an opportunity to change it, but we’ll still very much be Orlando City, we’ll still very much be the Lions and purple, by the way, will very much be the color. We intend to own that certainly in the U.S. as well as around the world as a brand along with Fiorentina as a brand and color that stands out.

On MLS focusing expansion in the Southeast with Miami and Atlanta:

I think a regional rival always helps. We’ve seen that in the Pacific Northwest, the rivalry between the [Seattle] Sounders and [Portland] Timbers and [Vancouver] Whitecaps. It’s great for the sport, it’s great for the fans, it’s great for the economy. Traveling fans and everything else. So we’d love to see a regional rival. Whether that’s Miami or Atlanta, I’m completely open to. There is plenty of room in the Southeast for two teams, so we’d welcome that and I think the fans would welcome that, too, because it’d give them a regional rival to enjoy taking on and enjoy traveling to, as well.

On the all important vote from Orange County on Oct. 22:

I’m always optimistic. I think we’ve got a great case to make, and I think if you look at the economic impact, the benefits, the community benefits, it just makes all the sense in the world to me. So yes, I’m optimistic for that reason. … I don’t think it’ll be as easy as the city was and as much support as we had there, but I do think we can get it done and we can get a Major League [Soccer] team announced in November.

UEFA Champions League semifinal predictions

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With the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League to kick off over the next few days, let’s take a look at both games and predict which teams will make it to the final in Kiev on May 26.

[ MORE: Champions League scores

Liverpool or Roma? Real Madrid or Bayern Munich?

Here’s the lowdown as two eagerly anticipated games take center stage across Europe.


Liverpool vs. AS Roma
First leg: Apr. 24, 2:45 p.m. ET at Anfield
Second leg: May 2, 2:45 p.m. ET at Stadio Olimpico

This should be one heck of a tie with defending optional for both teams but both have very different ways of playing. Jurgen Klopp will unleash the fluid trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino on an often brittle Roma defense but the Italian giants have a giant in their own up top in the shape of Edin Dzeko. How Virgil Van Dijk and Liverpool’s defense deal with the threat of Dzeko will likely decide the outcome of this game. Liverpool will look to feed off the famous Anfield atmosphere to wrack up a big first leg lead before they head to Roma for Leg 2, and I fancy Salah to blow his old team away in the first leg. Liverpool to advance 4-2 on aggregate.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid
First leg: Apr. 25, 2:45 p.m. ET at Allianz Arena
Second leg: May 1, 2:45 p.m. ET at Santiago Bernabeu

A proper heavyweight clash as Bayern and Real do battle knowing that whoever wins will be the favorites in the final. Cristiano Ronaldo is in the form of his life (again) after a slow start to this season and Zinedine Zidane’s side made hard work of it against Juventus in the last round but are on course for a third-straight UCL trophy. As for Bayern, they have been in imperious form and you feel like Robert Lewandowski can get the better of Real’s center backs. Expect this to be a tight game with extremely high quality from both teams. Real being at home in the second leg is a big advantage. Real Madrid to advance 3-2 on aggregate. 

Cologne’s Hector extends contract despite likely relegation

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) Germany defender Jonas Hector has shunned reported interest from Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund by extending his contract with Cologne – despite the club’s almost certain relegation from the Bundesliga.

Cologne, eight points from safety with three games remaining, says its 27-year-old captain has signed a two-year extension to 2023 instead of using a release clause in his contract.

Hector, who has been at the club since 2010, says, “It wouldn’t have been a problem to switch to another club after this season but it didn’t feel right for me. I belong to Cologne and want to tackle the new season with the team and the fans behind us.”

Cologne sporting director Armin Veh says Hector’s decision is, “a great signal for the team, the club and our fans.”

Klopp talks politics: “Brexit makes no sense”

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Jurgen Klopp isn’t a fan of Brexit and he doesn’t care who knows it.

Liverpool’s German manager has spoken in the past about his disdain towards the vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, with Brexit officially planned for March 2019.

Klopp sat down with the Guardian to chat about a whole host of topics but it was his political views which will get the headlines ahead of Liverpool’s huge UEFA Champions League semifinal first leg against AS Roma at Anfield on Tuesday.

The man who has Liverpool on the cusp of reaching a major European final and comfortably in the top four of the Premier League also admitted that he has a “helping syndrome” and wants to help out everyone and he cares about them greatly.

It is worth letting the words speak for themselves when it comes to Klopp’s comments on Brexit as it is clearly something else he cares a lot about.

Take it away, Jurgen…

“When Mr [David] Cameron had the idea [of a referendum] you thought: ‘This is not something people should decide in a moment.’ We are all influenced by the way only some of the argument is given, and once the decision is taken nobody gives you a real opportunity to change it again. The choice was either you stay in Europe, which is not perfect, or you go out into something nobody has any idea how it will work.

“So you give people the chance to make this big decision. And then it’s a 51-49 [51.9%-48.1%] vote and you’re thinking: ‘Wow, 49% are not happy with the decision that’s going to change the country.’ For the 51%, I’m sure they realized pretty early after the vote: ‘What have we done?’ The two leaders of the leave campaign then stepped aside. It was a pure sign they were surprised themselves by the vote. OK, that can happen. But then, come on, let’s sit together again. Let’s think about it again and let’s vote again with the right information – not with the information you’ve got around the Brexit campaign. They were obviously not right, not all of them. It makes no sense at all.”

“The EU is not perfect but it was the best idea we had. History has always shown that when we stay together we can sort out problems. When we split then we start fighting. There was not one time in history where division creates success. So, for me, Brexit still makes no sense.”

VIDEO: Napoli fans celebrate Juventus win

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It is safe to say Napoli’s fans were pretty happy with the 1-0 win their team secured at Juventus on Sunday.

Kalidou Koulibaly powered home a header in stoppage as Napoli moved just one point behind Juventus, who sit top of the Serie A table, with four games to go. The title race is well and truly on in Italy.

The scenes across Naples after the game were incredible and when the players arrived back at the airport at around 3 a.m. local time they were greeted by thousands of adoring fans.

Take a look at the video below. Wow.